The COVID-19 pandemic could be a ‘tipping point’ for the Central Valley’s growth, innovation

Despite the challenges the Central Valley has faced in the past few months, the coronavirus pandemic could prove a “tipping point” for the region in terms of innovation and growth, according to speakers at the annual State of the Valley event.

“In this pandemic crisis, I see a real opportunity for the North (San Joaquin) Valley,” said Mark Keppler, the executive director of the Maddy Institute, a local public policy organization. “If there’s some strategic thinking that’s going on … and then those plans are put into action, I think the next 25-50 years could be the time that the North Valley really emerges as a region.”

The event, co-presented by the Modesto Chamber of Commerce and Opportunity Stanislaus, was held Monday as a live webinar and featured presentations from Keppler and Dave White, the CEO of Opportunity Stanislaus. Trish Christensen, the chamber of commerce’s president and CEO, moderated the event.

Both Keppler and White expressed optimism at Stanislaus County’s ability to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, which sent unemployment skyrocketing in March and April and left many without jobs. Coupled with large-scale shutdowns of many parts of the economy — from shelter-in-place orders in the spring to current restrictions on indoor dining and other activities — brought whole sectors of the economy to a standstill.

But six months in, the Central Valley is beginning to see signs of recovery, both Keppler and White said. Recent unemployment data for Stanislaus County clocked in at 10.9%, down from 13.6% in July and a high of 17% in April. Jobless numbers in the county are currently lower than state-level unemployment, which was 11.4% in August, down from 13.5% in July.

“We’ve done better than most of California,” White said. “The main reason for that is we don’t rely on tourism and transportation as much as other places in California.”

The Central Valley’s key industries are manufacturing, agriculture and other essential industries, which have remained open throughout the pandemic. Additionally, seasonal labor — from farm work to Census enumerators — has caused a spike in employment across the Valley, resulting in lower unemployment figures.

SMALL BUSINESSES STRUGGLE DESPITE SUPPORT

White spoke to the Valley’s relative success in terms of coronavirus recovery, aided in part by local business support programs, including grants and loans like the Paycheck Protection Program, which gave small business access to billions in federal money.

Now, with the PPP program complete, and businesses adapting to the “new normal” under COVID-19, White stressed the importance of following the statewide safety guidelines and tiered system that will eventually allow for more reopening across the county.

Still, White said, people should not expect a V-shaped recovery from the pandemic, due to a decreased participation in the economy and shutdowns still in place across many industries. People are still wary of returning to work, as well as shopping and dining, he said.

“They’re scared, and they’re not confident,” White said. “In order to establish that confidence, we have to see a decrease in the impact of the virus on our community…. The longer this goes, the more we’re going to see business failure.”

CHANGING SKILLS FOR A NEW ECONOMY

The pandemic has changed the ways many Americans live their daily lives, from telecommuting to relying on online retailers for much of their shopping. Keppler said he is predicting ensuing changes in the Valley as well, including an increased emphasis on logistics, coming from large retailers and delivery service companies like Amazon, UPS and FedEx.

White said he also expects “on-shoring” of manufacturing, moving plants from overseas back to the United States, and creating more job opportunities in those sectors, as well as expansion plans from more traditional corporations.

Amazon recently announced 2,600 new jobs in the Central Valley, as part of a nationwide hiring spree of 100,000 workers, ranging from warehouse staff to finance and HR positions in the individual buildings.

Manufacturing jobs coming to the Central Valley will require workers with skills like PLC coding, automation and robotics, White said, raising the requirements for applicants. He said he expects similar changes in fields like agricultural technology and logistics.

“We need to invest in coding and all these upper skills that will be required in this new economy,” he said.

Additionally, White said, Stanislaus County needs to attract these skilled workers from other areas in the state and around the country, offering a high quality of life at a comparatively lower price point.

ATTRACTING POTENTIAL BUYERS TO THE CENTRAL VALLEY

As teleworking has become a more permanent option for many companies, Keppler said it’s estimated that Americans have saved around $91 billion by working at home this year, and employers are eager to continue with the practice and eventually reduce their footprints in high-priced areas like Silicon Valley.

Keppler said not only will this reduce the commutes of many workers who regularly drive up to three hours from the Valley to the Bay Area, but also make areas like Stanislaus County more attractive to potential renters and buyers.

In a post-office landscape, Keppler stressed, the Valley needs to make itself competitive not only on a regional level, but “nationwide.” This means focusing on housing, attention to detail in urban planning and ensuring that cities like Modesto provide ample amenities — like parks, performing arts and a walkable downtown — to attract new residents.

White added that as the pandemic more heavily affects urban areas, like New York City, Los Angeles or San Francisco, a number of people may be looking to move out of larger cities and into smaller ones they deem safer, like Modesto or other places in Stanislaus County.

“There’s going to be demand for housing,” he said, “and we need to be ready for that.”

White said he foresees a sort of hybrid model, with increased work-from-home and the possibility of smaller, communal offices popping up in more affordable cities where the employees of large tech companies will be able to work a few days a week or month.

He said it’s crucial for the public and private sectors to work together and create solutions for these needs across the Valley, and make the region as lucrative as possible for both companies and workers.

“The potential here is unbelievable,” Keppler said. “There has to be civic pride, and a sense of, ‘You know what, we can do this!’”

https://www.modbee.com/article245901805.html

U.S. NEWS RANKS FRESNO STATE IN TOP 3 FOR GRADUATION-RATE PERFORMANCE 5 YEARS IN A ROW

For the fifth consecutive year, Fresno State is ranked among the top three of the nation’s best public universities for graduation-rate performance in U.S. News and World Report’s 2021 Best College rankings issued today.

The University scored third-highest among public national universities and was No. 4 overall among all national universities, according to an analysis of U.S. News’ Academic Insights data used in the magazine’s annual rankings. Fresno State has ranked No. 3 for the past three years and was No. 1 in 2017.

The graduation-rate performance uses the University’s actual six-year graduation rate compared to predicted performance based on admissions data, school financial resources, the proportion of federal financial aid recipients who are first-generation, math and science orientations and the proportion of undergraduates receiving Pell grants.

“This particular national ranking speaks to the determination of our talented students, most of whom juggle work and family demands while seeking a college degree, a key that opens doors to a lifetime of professional and economic mobility opportunities,” said Fresno State President Joseph I. Castro. “It also highlights the University’s commitment, including that of our dedicated faculty and staff, to supporting and empowering students to ensure their timely completion to a quality and affordable degree.”

Here’s a look at other categories of the U.S. News and World Report where Fresno State continues to deliver on its mission to educate and empower students for success.

  • Fresno State ranked No. 6 for the second consecutive year for having the least debt load at graduation among public national universities and No. 18 among all national universities. Forty percent of recent students who graduated in 2019 or earlier have an average debt of $15,181 compared to the national average student debt of $29,399.
  • The University ranked No. 21 for graduate indebtedness, a new category showing how schools compare in terms of the average amount of federal loan debt among recent graduates and the percentage of graduates who borrowed federal loans.
  • Improving one spot from last year, Fresno State ranked No. 26 in the social mobility category for how well schools graduate students who receive federal Pell Grants, meaning they come from low- to medium-income households.
  • The Lyles College of Engineering at Fresno State ranked No. 60 out of 220 universities for Best Undergraduate Engineering Program.
  • Fresno State and San Diego State are the only two CSU campuses to rank in the top 100 public national universities placing No. 100 and No. 65, respectively.

Fresno State’s reclassification as a Carnegie doctoral university in 2016 means it joined the top research universities in the nation in rankings produced by the new publication. Fresno State offers doctoral degrees in nursing, physical therapy and educational leadership.

U.S. News and World Report evaluates campuses on multiple factors for its overall national ranking. The news publication gives the most weight to outcomes, including graduation and retention rates followed by faculty resources, academic reputation, financial resources and graduation-rate performance. This year, the rankings included schools that don’t use the SAT or ACT at all in admissions decisions.

In other rankings

Last month, Fresno State ranked No. 26 in Washington Monthly’s annual nationwide college rankings. The Washington D.C.-based magazine calls attention to colleges that best serve the community, ranking institutions on social mobility, research and service. This is the fifth straight year Fresno State has ranked in Washington Monthly’s top 30.

The University also ranked No. 7 for Most Transformative Colleges in MONEY Magazine’s 50 Best Public Colleges rankings for 2020. Additionally, Fresno State ranked No. 40 on the Best Public College rankings, and came in No. 19 for Best Colleges Where More Than Half of Applicants Get In.

http://www.fresnostatenews.com/2020/09/14/u-s-news-ranks-fresno-state-in-top-3-for-graduation-rate-performance-5-years-in-a-row/

Setton Academy for Industrial Robotics and Technology coming in 2021

Setton Farms has announced it will build a school in Terra Bella that will focus on industrial robotics and technology. The new school will be called Setton Academy.

In 2019, Setton Pistachio established a 501c(3) non-profit to develop and operate an industrial technology school. After a lengthy permitting process, the school was approved, and construction on Setton Academy began in summer 2020. DAYCO Construction and Industrial Design and Construction (IDC) are assisting with construction and materials. The school will be equipped with robotic and computer vision cells, as well as software development workstations for a hands-on laboratory experience.

“The school is a 501c(3),” said Setton Farms General Manager Lee Cohen “It’s an educational foundation that the family has set up to provide modern educational instruction in advanced industrial electronics and industrial robotics. We think that it’s a very effective way to change the trajectory of kids’ lives locally in Terra Bella.

“We are targeting students that are 18 to 23 year old high school graduates who we hope to basically give the requisite skills to change the trajectory of their lives to go into a pathway of industrial automation, which in today’s job market is very, very lucrative, high paying and very much in demand. The goal is really to go after the local kids who really wouldn’t have an opportunity like this.”

Once up and running, the Setton Academy will provide short certificate style courses that allow students to advance their education in industrial electronics, robotics and computer vision. The hands-on, module-based curriculum will be designed to focus on industrial automation control, robotics, computer vision and CAD design, and will allow students to learn at their own pace. The curriculum will cover subjects that match skills required in the broad industries throughout the Valley. All of the modules will be taught by industry professionals in a variety of methods ranging from live, hands-on instruction, to step-by-step videos and other interactive media modes.

“The school is going to be very modest and small,” said Cohen. “We’re going to try to take less than 30 students a year. If we can change the lives of 10, 20, 30 kids a year, over 10 years we’ll really have made a big difference in Terra Bella, and I think that’s the goal. The non-profit is going to be focused on providing access to these kids, providing very simplified and well designed curriculum, so that we can really utilize the state of the art of modern industrial robotics and technology, which really now is very accessible to these kids, because everyone of these kids probably has a smartphone and knows how software works, and I think the modern state of industrial automation is more accessible to them these days because of that.”

The goal of Setton Academy is its graduates acquire the necessary industrial technology and robotics skills to bring immediate value and productivity for employers who utilize production automation. If the school can achieve its goals, it could potentially change the pathway of its graduates’ lives from a minimum-wage, low-skill trajectory into a highly paid, high-skill, high-growth job trajectory.

“I think across the Valley, certainly in Agriculture, there’s of course ways of automation due to the difficult operating environment and higher costs across every aspect,” said Cohen. “I think nationally we will resort to automation to offset those costs in the long run, and I believe that, probably at this point in time, there aren’t enough educational institutions that are focusing on the people who will be operating, managing, interacting and designing this wave of automation that will be progressing through the Valley. I think it’s very within reach of all of these kids, absolutely. We just have to put together the right curriculum, the right delivery, the right program. So what we’re doing is bringing the education locally in town. They can walk to us. That’s the objective; this local education delivering really very market focused principles of education.”

Future goals for Setton Academy include developing a network of hiring companies that will source automation operators directly from the school.

“We are encouraging the community to get involved,” said Cohen. “We are looking for community members who can sit on a committee or some kind of advisory council. We want the community completely involved in this.”

The school is aiming to be completed by the summer of 2021.

https://www.recorderonline.com/news/setton-academy-coming-in-2021/article_bf4b6b5a-ff48-11ea-8a87-4f3360aea47c.html?utm_medium=social&utm_source=email&utm_campaign=user-share

 

California Supreme Court Gives Favorable Nod to North Fork Rancheria Casino

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: North Fork, CA – August 31, 2020 – The California Supreme Court has ruled that former Governor Jerry Brown acted within his authority when he concurred in a pair of federal decisions in 2011 that led to the approval of two so-called “off-reservation” tribal gaming projects in Madera and Yuba counties. In United Auburn Indian Community v. Newsom, the Court determined that the Governor has the right to concur. The decision will allow the North Fork Rancheria to move forward with the design, financing and construction of its long-awaited and highly anticipated project north of the City of Madera.

“We are thrilled that the Court has finally decided this case in our favor” said North Fork Rancheria Tribal Chair Elaine Bethel-Fink. “Our tribal citizens and local community have been denied the advantages of tribal gaming – billions of dollars in economic benefits and thousands of jobs – for far too long.”

The legal case stems back nearly a decade; the Tribe’s pursuit of a casino nearly two. In 2003, the Tribe penned an agreement with Las Vegas-based Station Casinos to develop a casino. The next year, the Tribe requested the federal government to take the proposed site near Madera in trust for gaming purposes. After a rigorous and lengthy federal review, the Assistant Secretary–Indian Affairs determined that gaming on the land would be in the best interest of the Tribe and not detrimental to the surrounding community and requested the Governor’s concurrence to move forward. A year later, on August 30, 2012, in a letter to the Secretary of the Interior, Governor Brown concurred in the determination.

Opponents eventually challenged the Governor’s authority to concur, arguing that California’s Constitution required legislative authorization. In 2017, the California Supreme Court agreed to hear challenges to both projects after two appeals courts reached different conclusions. It then took the Court over 3½ years to rule on the matter.

“While we firmly believe that only federal law controls the gaming eligibility of our trust lands,” said Bethel-Fink, “we are nonetheless delighted to have this long drawn out drama finally behind us — and eager to get going and bring jobs and economic opportunity to our people and community!”

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About the North Fork Rancheria
The North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians is a federally recognized Native American tribe with over 2,200 tribal citizens and government offices in Madera County, California. Since the restoration of its federally recognized status in 1983, the Tribe has established modern tribal governing institutions to improve the lives of its tribal citizens, many of whom have limited access to basic housing, healthcare, business, employment, and educational services and opportunity. The Tribe leverages its limited federal grant funding to operate numerous tribal programs. More information available at https://www.northforkrancheria-nsn.gov/.

Robots spotted roaming Modesto streets

Residents have been noticing some strange sights in Modesto over the past few days.

Small robotic machines have been going up and down the streets of a northeast neighborhood. One side of the robot says “Hungry? I can help.”

On Friday, six robots were seen cautiously navigating crosswalks and traffic, getting long glances from drivers.

The robots are from Starship Technologies, a company based out of San Francisco. The company said it is testing its navigational systems and did not release any other details.

https://www-kcra-com.cdn.ampproject.org/c/s/www.kcra.com/amp/article/robots-spotted-roaming-modesto-streets/34082194

$15.66-Million Apartment Building in Central Valley Sold by The Mogharebi Group

(“TMG”) has completed the sale of Oak Valley Apartments, a 109-unit community, in Tulare. The property sold for $15,660,000 with multiple offers. Alex Mogharebi, Otto Ozen, Robin Kane, Brendan Kane and Mark Bonas of The Mogharebi Group represented the seller, IDEAL Capital Group based in Central California. The buyer was a private investor, based in Southern California. “The property is a recently renovated high quality asset with a strong unit mix with proven upside. This Central Valley community presents solid upside-value”

“The property is a recently renovated high quality asset with a strong unit mix with proven upside. This Central Valley community presents solid upside-value,” said Otto Ozen, Executive Vice President of The Mogharebi Group. “Through our proprietary 1031 exchange platform that includes a robust network of private high net-worth and exchange buyers, we were able to drive the value and successfully close.”

Built on a 7.06-acre site in 1988, Oak Valley Apartments is located at 2001 East Cross Avenue in Tulare. The property has great exposure on their fronting roads and is within a 30- to 60-minute commute to over 661,000 jobs.

The property features attractive community amenities, including a large resort-like swimming pool, fitness center, business/media center, outdoor BBQ/Picnic area, and reserved covered parking. It is walking distance to Live Oak Middle School, Super Target and less than one mile of Tulare Outlet Center and other retail shops.

About The Mogharebi Group (TMG): The Mogharebi Group is a brokerage firm specializing in the multifamily property sector throughout California. With unrivaled local knowledge, an extensive global network of top real estate investors, state of the art technology, and direct access to capital, The Mogharebi Group is the best choice to meet the needs of major private investors and investment funds.

https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20200918005066/en/15.66-Million-Apartment-Building-in-Central-Valley-Sold-by-The-Mogharebi-Group

Central California Storage Facility Trades for $12M

Olive Drive Self Storage, a 106,041-square-foot facility in Bakersfield, Calif., has sold for $11.5 million. A private investor traded the property to an individual buyer based near San Francisco, according to Yardi Matrix data.

Located on an 8-acre parcel at 5250 Knudsen Drive, the property encompasses 14 single-story buildings completed in 2004. The facility provides a mix of drive-up access units ranging between 25 and 400 square feet and paved parking lots with sizes from 150 to 600 square feet for RVs, boats and cars. The store has an on-site manager, security cameras and individually fitted alarms within each unit and also sells packing and moving supplies.

There are 10 other self storage properties encompassing 928,772 net rentable square feet within a 3-mile radius, Yardi Matrix data shows. Situated close to the busy retail corridor along Olive Drive, the facility is 4 miles northwest of downtown Bakersfield.

The site is also 4 miles north of Cal Twin Towers, a 151,124-square-foot office property which traded for $26.1 million in February. Cushman & Wakefield assisted seller Adler Realty Investments in the disposition to Blumer Construction.

https://www.cpexecutive.com/post/central-california-storage-facility-trades-for-12m/#:~:text=The%20property%20delivered%20in%202004,square%20feet%20in%2014%20buildings.&text=Olive%20Drive%20Self%20Storage%2C%20a,has%20sold%20for%20%2411.5%20million.

Stan State Among Top 30 Colleges in the West

California State University, Stanislaus continues to be consistently recognized as one of the best universities in the Western United States as the campus earned spots on U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Colleges 2021” rankings in several categories.

The publication announced today the results of its annual assessment of colleges and universities, and Stanislaus State placed in the top 30 on four rankings of colleges located in the West:

  • No. 7, Social Mobility
  • No. 11, Top Public School 
  • No. 18, Best Colleges for Veterans 
  • No. 29, Regional Universities (West) 

The announcement markanother year in which Stan State earned inclusion in the esteemed rankings that provide data-driven information and guidance to prospective students and their families as they weigh college options. 

U.S. News & World Report’s methodology gathered data from 15 areas related to academic excellence including retention, graduation rates, faculty resources, peer assessment, financial resources and other metrics, then ranked schools according to a composite score. 

In addition to the online report, the publication will issue most of its college rankings with more robust datasets in its Best Colleges 2021 guidebook, available in bookstores Oct. 27.

Stan State’s repeated recognition as one of the best universities in the West reinforces its reputation for fostering a vibrant learning environment where students can develop a passion for lifelong learning while preparing for their future careers.

https://www.csustan.edu/article/stan-state-among-top-30-colleges-west

CSUB makes U.S. News’ ‘Best Colleges’ lists

CSUB has made the cut for the annual U.S. News and World Report 2021 Best Colleges report, which ranks 1,452 higher education institutions that offer bachelor’s degrees.

The university was ranked No. 31 on a list of “Top Performers on Social Mobility.” The list ranks colleges that do well at both enrolling economically disadvantaged students who are awarded Pell Grants and then graduating them. Fresno Pacific University, a private school, ranked third on this list. Many other schools in the CSU system made the list, including CSU-Long Beach which came in ranked No. 2. CSUB made the rankings of regional lists in the West. It was No. 52 in “Regional Universities.” Among “Top Public Schools,” it ranked No. 24.

Its engineering programming was also given a nod, making No. 91 in “Best Undergraduate Engineering.” This is the 36th year of the college rankings from U.S. News and World Report, which says it weighs 17 different factors when calculating rankings. Some calculations are a bit more cut-and-dry like graduation rates. Others, like peer reputation, which accounts for 20 percent of scores, are more qualitative.

https://www.bakersfield.com/news/csub-makes-u-s-news-best-colleges-lists/article_d3ec39c8-f79f-11ea-b169-176d77f4bc9e.html#:~:text=CSUB%20has%20made%20the%20cut,Top%20Performers%20on%20Social%20Mobility.%E2%80%9D

FRENCH GROUP BUYS KRAFT CHEESE DIVISION, INCLUDING TULARE PLANT

French dairy company Lactalis Group has entered into a definitive agreement for the acquisition by its U.S. affiliate of Kraft Heinz’s Natural, Grated, Cultured and Specialty cheese businesses in the U.S. With this acquisition, Lactalis will acquire a portfolio of iconic, strongly-positioned brands that include Cracker Barrel, Breakstone’s, Knudsen, Polly-O, Athenos, Hoffman’s and — outside the U.S. and Canada only — Cheez Whiz.

In addition, Kraft Heinz will partner with Lactalis on a perpetual license for Kraft in Natural, Grated and International cheeses and Velveeta in Natural and International cheeses. Under the terms of the transaction, Lactalis will acquire three  Kraft Heinz production facilities located in Tulare; Walton, New York and Wausau, Wisconsin, and a distribution center in Weyauwega, Wisconsin.

Approximately 750 Kraft Heinz employees will be joining Lactalis. The company expects to add additional American jobs to support this business following the closing of the transaction, which is expected in the first half of 2021, subject to regulatory approvals. Kraft Tulare’s plant was originally a Louis Rich turkey plant in the 1990s but closed and later was converted by the parent company to make cheese — mostly mozzarella and Parmesan.

https://thebusinessjournal.com/french-group-buys-kraft-cheese-division-including-tulare-plant-%E2%80%A8/